Interview: Evan White, the man behind Howlie

Evan White contacted me a few months ago and it was only just recently that I got the chance to indulge in his brutally honest but brilliantly crafted lo-fi gems. To give you a taste, this was the first track he shared with me:

 

 

From his home in Greenfield, MA, Evan feeds his fire for high intensity lo-fi by purposefully giving his music that home made-bedroom-operated studio quality ,while simultaneously baring his soul for all to see and hear. Initially reluctant to share his music, Evan is now stepping out of his comfort zone full bore. Below, Evan discusses the origin of his musical moniker, Howlie, shares some of his favorite songs and much more.

 

MFL: You say that your music is very “diary-esque” and you clearly have a way with words. Do you actually keep a diary to record your writing material or do you have other methods for this?

Evan White of Howlie (EW): I have a few moleskin notebooks that I’m constantly writing flashes of inspiration in. These usually start as letters to whomever, or different lines of memories that I try to string together cohesively. I then highlight the best lines of these two methods and then form them into a song as best I can. I make sure to date everything at the top of the page to keep track of where I was mentally throughout the year. I also pull striking lines from earlier unused material and apply it to newer songs when I feel stumped.

 

MFL: Your music seems very honest in sound and content. Is this your intention and do you ever feel wary of sharing music that is so honest?

EW: Hey, thanks! I’m always hoping to convey total emotional transparency in my writing. Some of my favorite songwriters write lyrics that could be perceived as embarrassing, but the intimacy in doing so has hooked me since day one. When I started writing music at age 15, I immediately flocked towards putting in these lyrical nods to girls I knew and situations that had happened with them. I didn’t even think about it. My writing has definitely put me in some unpleasant conversations… it’s a rush to release these deeply personal songs and get this weight off of my chest, but when my friends and family start asking if I’m okay, I start to regret it a little.

 

MFL: How did music work its way into your life and when?

EW: Both of my parents are huge music lovers so music has always been in my life. My early years were rather unguided. I enjoyed whatever my parents played, from Aerosmith to Mozart, but I never heard anything that blew my mind and made me think, “I need to hear this again!” It wasn’t until I was 14 and heard Green Day’s new single “American Idiot.” It ignited a fire within me, I’m not even kidding. It sounds funny to say now, because a lot of my friends are music snobs and love to hate on pop punk. I’ve become accustomed to not mentioning it, but that album is still magical for me. I started writing horrible poetry after I fell down the Green Day rabbit hole; I felt so inspired to be a songwriter, but didn’t have the means to do so. Around a year later, my dad bought me my first bass, and after taking some lessons I was in a band within months. The rest is history!

 

MFL: What’s the story behind your musical moniker, Howlie?

EW: I was in a long term, long distance relationship with a girl from Hawaii and had the opportunity to spend a cumulative five months there over the course of three years. In Hawaii, white people are referred to as “haole.” It’s not necessarily derogatory, but it’s kind of context-sensitive. Anyway, I loved it. It just has this sound to it. I remember being 19, and for whatever reason writing it down phonetically: “howlie.” It evokes this lonely image in my mind. Howling has a sadness to it, but having that “ie” at the end makes it sound friendly, approachable, like a nickname. I had been in a number of bands from 2009 to 2014 and when it came time to name a band, I always had Howlie in my back pocket but ultimately decided to keep it for myself. I’m really glad that I saved it.

 

MFL: Is performing live something that has happened for you yet? If not, is this something you’d like to do?

EW: After I released my first single “Alaina” in October of 2014, I played my first Howlie gig at the end of the month. It was my first solo acoustic show, and it was hell on my nerves. I was totally exposed without a wall of feedback and percussion to support any wrong notes or to mask the lyrical content… or to overpower the crowd talking. As the months went on, I got over being alone on stage, but the crowd talking while I spilled my guts on stage was heartbreaking. In the summer of 2015 I couldn’t take it anymore and threw in the towel for my solo shows. I wholly intended on never playing again, convinced that my songs must be lacking something. Thankfully, I received my first coverage from a music blog late last year, and I felt so inspired. I’m now averaging one or two shows a month and the talking has died down considerably!

 

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MFL: It seems like up to now, you’ve mostly written and recorded music solo. Do you foresee yourself collaborating with other people in the future?

EW: Actually, I play guitar in two other bands: Matt Byrde and Sleeping Terms! I love playing in a high energy, full band setting. I started Howlie because I became so tired of forming bands and pouring resources into them only to have them break up, and then start the process all over again. Ultimately, I have decided to write and perform my own music alone, but I still love playing with other people and helping other songwriters express their creative vision. 

 

MFL: If I were to check out the top 5 most frequently played songs on your iPod, Spotify, iTunes (you name your platform for listening to music), what would they be?

EW: I’m going to sound like such a dweeb, but I live for physical, analog media like records and cassettes. There’s something about holding an artist’s work in my hands. I’m also a front-to-back album listener… this is a tough one! Okay, here goes:

  1. She Sends Kisses” – the Wrens
  2. “Humming” – Turnover
  3. “Where Your Heartache Exists” – the Menzingers
  4. “Don’t Look Back In Anger” – Oasis
  5. “The Sensual World” – Kate Bush

These are all songs that I continue to listen to on repeat for a half hour drive on multiple occasions.

 

MFL: Speaking of platforms for listening to music, what is your opinion on music streaming options like Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music?

EW: They’re a phenomenal tool for discovery. It’s so easy to find recommendations and the ability to hear any song in a matter of seconds is wonderful. But for as much money as Spotify is making, you’d think they could pay their artists a little more. Shawn Harris of the band the Matches has a daily podcast called “YOU [DON’T] KNOW ME,” and in one of the episodes he revealed that a listener has to listen to a song 300 times in order for that artist to earn one dollar. That’s mental! This is coming from me, a guy that listens to the same song for half an hour… but 300 times? Kinda messed up. Of course, that’s nothing for Beyonce or the Beatles, but what about the little guys? In a little over 2 years, subtracting the fees to host my music on streaming services, I think I’ve made a whopping $1.50 in profit from streaming. It’s a necessary evil, though. It allows people to easily find my music, and you can’t put a price on that.

 

MFL: The art that accompanies your music is really interesting. It seems most are photographs but the art for “Pretty Girls” is a different media. Where do the photographs and art come from?

EW: Wow, you’re the first person to comment on the art! I’m very conscious about it. As a listener, I love holding the artwork in my hands and looking at it as I’m listening. As a creator, I want to immerse the listener in a song with subtle visual nods to the history surrounding each single. I’m not going to go too deep into them because it feels good to have it be a little secret, but one notable example that I don’t mind sharing is from the artwork for “As I’m Dangling.” In the song, it ends with the line, “as I’m dangling from the tree in my backyard, I imagine you wrapped in my arms.” The artwork of the single is me at age 11 in my parent’s backyard. Just off camera, to the right, is a huge tree that I used to climb and “dangle” from, daydreaming about this one girl I had had a crush on for years. The picture was taken after my family had recently moved, and for a long time I wondered if I would ever see her again. I wrote the song after having moved back in with my parents after a horrible breakup. I spent my days wishing I could be with her again. Though the song refers to the “dangling” of another nature, I felt a closeness to my 11-year-old self and wanted to pay homage in my own way.

 

MFL: Finally, what kind of goals do you have for yourself musically (or otherwise if you wish to share!) for the next year?

EW: I just spent the weekend working on my forthcoming EP called Dead Dog. This is my first Howlie-branded EP! I’ve been working on my full length for almost two years, but it’s been a huge project and I feel so anxious about it. I want it to be perfect. Some of the songs I’ve written don’t have a place on the album or don’t fit the Howlie formula, but I have really wanted to release them in some way. A couple of these I’ve sat on since the inception of Howlie. This EP is… very different from all of the singles I’ve released, and I’m nervous about how it will go over. My goal is to take the plunge and release it later this spring. I also hope to finally finish up my full length this year; it’s such a special group of songs and they flow so well together. The full length is comprised of most of my already released singles and a handful that I’ve been trying hard not to let slip! I’ve taken a lot of care assembling them chronologically and cohesively. They tell a story of my 20’s that I feel is worth telling.

 

Huge thanks to Evan for being so open during this interview process! This the FIRST time he has publicly announced the release of his upcoming EP, Dead Dog, and below is the album art:

 

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Stay tuned for more from Evan White (AKA Howlie) and follow him on Bandcamp and Facebook.

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